The health system is currently still building out its space there, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The 1,200-square-foot space will be modeled after Houston Methodist’s Innovation Center, Technology Centerwhich is located in its flagship hospital.
The Innovation Technology Center opened in 2020 to provide a laboratory environment for piloting patient-centric digital health tools, focusing initially on voice technology/natural language processing, wearables and virtual reality. Houston Methodist’s space at Ion will be a smaller replica of that center.
The space will be used for networking and informational programming with other companies and entrepreneurs at Ion. Houston Methodist wants to tap local talent to help them build digital health tools for its smart hospitals, Michelle Stansbury, the health system’s vice president of innovation and IT applications, said in an interview. She pointed out that because there are a lot of innovative companies emerging in Houston and a lot of forward thinkers moving to Texas, the health system saw an opportunity to take advantage of that instead of relying solely on partnerships with providers that are based across the country. or abroad.
“When you think about digital technology, it’s not industry agnostic — it’s industry driven,” Stansbury said. “Every organization is thinking about digital ways to help improve the overall customer experience, no matter who their customer is, yes. Our ultimate goal at Ion is to bring healthcare into this space because we believe it’s an untapped industry.”
Houston Methodist’s space at Ion will help the health system define new ways to use digital technology in its eighth smart hospital, which the health system is currently building. Houston Methodist Cypress Hospital is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2025. Stansbury said the health system is focused on using robotic technology to automate processes at the new hospital, as well as implementing user-friendly messaging and payment technology that gives patients the convenience they prefer.
Stansbury pointed to several key projects the health system has piloted since opening its first innovation center two years ago.
The first is an environmental listening tool developed by Houston Methodist for its physicians and clinics in partnership with Amazon. The tool uses natural language processing to capture all the documentation needed for an appointment, instantly entering it into the EHR. It also encodes so when doctors bill, all they have to do is sign. The technology is still being piloted, but could be rolled out across the system as early as next year, according to Stansbury.
Houston Methodist and Amazon are also piloting a voice skill for the operating room that will be paired with Amazon’s Alexa. Surgeons and other clinicians in the operating room can use the tool to walk through procedural steps — such as administering anesthesia, applying a tourniquet and displaying X-rays — all without having to touch a computer. The tool also allows users to confirm to the voice assistant that they have completed each action on their checklist.
Going forward, Stansbury said one of Houston Methodist’s innovation focuses will be partnering with biosensor organizations to see if wearable technology can be meaningfully implemented in hospitals. Instead of looking at the more popular use of biosensors in the home, the healthcare system believes the technology can continuously collect patient data that care teams can use to inform more timely and targeted care plans.
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